Skip to main content

View Post [edit]

Poster: dead-head_Monte Date: Jan 16, 2011 2:31pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: the first portable cassette taping gear

portable cassette recorders

Here are some facts about early Taper equipment, including my own Taping gear. I did NOT use a Sony TC-110 portable cassette recorder to tape the RFK Stadium GD shows in 1973. I taped these shows on my Sony TC-2850SD portable stereo cassette recorder. It was brand new when I taped both shows there.

portable cassette recorders were monaural at first

Sony TC-100
dead-head_Monte-white-dot-2x2.gifSony TC-110 w/ built-in mic

I never owned a Sony TC-110, and I never taped with one - even though earlier I have said I did. Looking back, it was my mistake, based on confusion, bad recollection, and the fact that others have claimed to have recorded with these decks. The TC-2850SD, as I understand it, was the first portable STEREO cassette recorder in the world. It became available in 1973. Features include peak limiter, manual or automatic recording levels, VU meter lighting, stereo headphone monitor, and tape counter. However, there was no Dolby NR, and no Chromium Tape bias/EQ circuits.

Sony TC-2850SD portable stereo cassette recorder


I purchased my Sony TC-2850SD stereo cassette recorder and ECM-99 stereo mic together. My Taping kit that I put together included extendable external portable speakers, AC power supply, rechargeable battery pack, and a shoulder strap. The tape deck operated on 4 C-cell batteries. The ECM-99 was a condensor mic, and it required a battery. The TC-2850SD offered exceptional recording fidelity to go, in a brown and silver metal case. Controls were designed to more professional standards, and this is apparent in the buttons and level meters. Operating the switches felt like toggling high-end levers. What made this recorder a hit was its combination of durable construction and great usability. The kit displayed below shows the ECM-99 mic (left of deck) with the recorder, in the left pic. ECM-99 stereo mic is shown in the right pic.


I never heard the name "Densuke" before. Sony's TC-2850SD "Cassette Densuke" - the "Densuke" name comes from Sony's professional-level portable tape recorder. A popular magazine strip featured a reporter named Densuke who wore Sony's tape recorder to sample public opinion. From then on it became widely known as "Densuke". Broadcasters ended up referring to all portable cassette players as "Densuke" hence why you see the name in 1973 for the TC-2850SD.

Nakamichi 550

Then I purchased my Nakamichi 550 portable stereo cassette recorder in June, 1973. It was state-of-the-art and its quality was superior to my Sony TC-2850SD. The Nakmichi 550 was the first portable stereo cassette recorder in the world to feature Dobly NR and Chromium Tape bias/EQ circuitry. It also featured a 3rd mic input that blended into both L and R channels. So you had a built-in mic mixer for 3 mics. This Nak was a heavy device to haul around. This portable deck weighed 11ΒΌ pounds without batteries. It required 8 D-cell batteries to operate in the field. But you had extended battery life, several hours longer than my Sony TC-2850SD had, without changing batteries. I believe I had the first Nakamichi 550 deck on the East Coast in 1973. I bought it from a very high-end audio dealer in NJ, named Roger Iselle. At his insistence, I had to pay him $500 cash up-front. I waited one month for my new deck to arrive. It was brand new when I taped GD at Roosevelt Stadium, July 31 and Aug 1. We have Jerry Moore's AUD beauty on The Archive for July 31, thanks to Noah Weiner's transfer. It was recorded on Sony TC-110.


This post was modified by dead-head_Monte on 2011-01-16 22:31:01

Reply [edit]

Poster: Da Red Rooster Date: Mar 8, 2012 3:33pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: the first portable cassette taping gear

Hey now,
Actually the Sony 2850-SD was NOT the first portable stereo cassette recorder. In 1969 my friend's dad brought him a Sony 124-SD from a trip to Japan. It came with a one-point stereo mic and two detachable plastic speakers. I was so impressed I got one for myself sometime in 1970. I used it to record the Grateful Dead at Georgetown University on Oct. 23 of that year. You can listen to it at

The same machine was used to record the 11-20 and 11-21-73 shows at the Denver Coliseum.

The 124-SD was followed by the 126-SD and then the much more substantial 152SD, which looked a lot like the 2850-SD.


This post was modified by Da Red Rooster on 2012-03-08 23:33:43

Reply [edit]

Poster: dead-head_Monte Date: Mar 8, 2012 3:50pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: the first portable cassette taping gear

Thanks Cary! I really appreciate your input. I am going from my memory, and searches in the Sony archives. That's how I came up with the Sony model number I used for taping RFK Stadium in 1973. But that is the deck I taped with there (no Dolby NR, no Chrome Tape bias). I'm not exactly sure of the "official model number" but, I can tell you I paid cash for it at Sam Goodys on Route 17, in Paramus, NJ. I purchased the Sony ECM-99 single-point stereo mic there at the same time. That's what I meant when I said, "first one out that was widely available."

I didn't have any overseas connections. But I think the guy I purchased my Nak 550 from had excellent connections. I'm pretty sure he developed reliable European and Japanese connections for his business. He was the only "exclusively high-end" Audio Dealer in my area. Me and my friends went to his place several times. After that I felt comfortable fronting him $500 and waiting one month for my Nak to arrive.

Reply [edit]

Poster: Da Red Rooster Date: Mar 8, 2012 4:32pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: the first portable cassette taping gear

Hey Monte,
This all got stimulated by finding your 8-1-73 recording on Dime. I worked at a stereo shop in Boulder in the mid-'70s and had access to some pretty good equipment. I borrowed their Sony 152-SD to record Emmylou Harris in a small club in 1976 (just after her first album came out). I still have the AKG-1000E mics I used. I eventually had a Nak 500 and 550, and later a couple different home decks. Eventually unloaded them when they broke down and Nak parts were hard to come by after the company went under. I taped several Colorado Dead shows with the 550. It was a great unit, but so large and clunky compared to the Zoom H4n digital recorder I have now.

BTW, the RFK 6-10-73 show was my last Dead show on the East Coast before we moved out West. It was a memorable one!

All the best to ya from one old taper to another.

Reply [edit]

Poster: dead-head_Monte Date: Mar 8, 2012 5:14pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: the first portable cassette taping gear

I'm listening to your China > Rider tapes, and Sugar Magnolia. It sounds very good. It's very clear. I just read your taping story for taping GD at Georgetown U in 1970. Good story, and similar to the rest of us. Thanks for sharing it. I also taped GD with crappy cassettes tapes my first time taping them, and I had problems taking on the crowd and getting into FOB position. Instead, my friend pierced through the crowd for me, and I followed him into FOB heaven.

My old Sony recorder also had the two detachable plastic speakers that you mentioned came with the Sony 124-SD your friend's dad had. Without searching this out, you are probably the first audience GD taper to use a stereo portable cassette recorder. Wow, no Pause Button on the TC-124? My Sony deck had one.

btw, you are definitely welcome to join us if Charlie Miller, me, and some of the other early-era Tapers ever get an online Compendium going.

Reply [edit]

Poster: Da Red Rooster Date: Mar 8, 2012 8:53pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: the first portable cassette taping gear

The next iteration, the 126-SD, had the speakers and a pause button. Of course there's a YouTube video of it:
Also the TC-124:;feature=related. I drove across country in 1971 with the 124 in the front seat and a small bookshelf speaker jacked into it in the back seat.

Reply [edit]

Poster: GerryO Date: Jun 4, 2014 9:27am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: the first portable cassette taping gear

Memory tells me that it took me a while to determine that keeping the Record button held down, while using only the Play button to start and stop tape movement, was a good method to Pause things. That way at least the electronics portion of recording was always ready to go.

Using the On/Off button on the microphone certainly was NOT the best thing to do. BIG WOOSH!

photo Handbillsfront.jpg

photo Microphone.jpg

This post was modified by GerryO on 2013-04-30 19:43:41

This post was modified by GerryO on 2014-06-04 16:27:50

Reply [edit]

Poster: GerryO Date: Apr 30, 2013 12:53pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: the first portable cassette taping gear

A few specs and some literature:

photo Specifications.jpg

photo Paperwork.jpg

This post was modified by GerryO on 2013-04-30 19:53:51